Pub date: 14 June 2011
Source: S&S Galley Grab
15-year-old Minke van Aisma goes to Amsterdam to care for the dying wife of wealthy older man Sander DeVries. Once his wife dies, Sander wastes no time in proposing marriage to Minke. They get married and set sail for Argentina and its oil fields. But once there, everything changes including Sander. Their son Zef gets kidnapped, but Sander and Minke cannot stay to look for him. Sander sets off for New York and Minke follows after she gives birth to their daughter. In New York, Minke is forced to face some difficult truths and find strength.
I loved reading about the tenacity of this young woman. Minke is a naive girl who marries a man she didn’t know and falls in love with him. Grappling to fit into a new society, she also struggles to understand her husband, who doesn’t take her into his confidence. Her one source of support is her husband’s cousin, Cassian – a doctor, who helps her navigate her new place in life.
When they move to Argentina so that her husband can pursue this secretive line of work, Minke falls in love with the place and learns to respect the people. But a distance starts to grow between her husband and her. And this rift becomes a lot worse once Minke’s sister Hannah comes to live with them to help take care of the baby.
Spanning Holland, Argentina and the new world – New York, this is a story of growth, adventure and loss of innocence. Once in New York, the scales completely fall from Minke’s eyes about her husband and you have to admire her courage and what she does to make a life for herself and her child.
I did find that some parts of the plot were too coincidental and rather too neatly tied – the tough but fair employers in New York going out of their way to help Minke in particular. Things turned out the way I wished they would, but it needed an extra suspension of disbelief. On the other hand, Lewis’ descriptions of each place that Minke visited was so evocative. I especially loved the descriptions of Comodoro – the place, people and culture.
What additionally caught my interest is that this novel is based on the real life of the author’s grandmother. I found myself wondering after I finished how much is fiction and what was fact.
This was a fast read, and I finished it in one sitting. Minke’s journey from an innocent young girl in her small town in Holland is a great coming of age story.
In spite of everything I enjoyed about the book, once I finished it, I was left strangely unsatisfied. I think that is mainly because of the neat tied up endings and the overly simple ways in which certain obstacles were overcome. But I did enjoy the writing and the adventures.
Overall a good read. Get ready to be transported all over the globe with the wonderfully evocative descriptions.
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